I'm hoping to read about your dinner at El Celler De Can Roca. Please don't let me down.
We would have loved that -- and we exhausted every connection we had trying to make it happen -- but it was not to be. They're booked through the end of the year and there was nothing that anyone we know could do to get us in. Can Roca will have to wait until our next trip to Spain.
But there's no reason for sadness.
Our final meal was at Tickets and it was, in a word, spectacular. An extremely generous friend reached out on our behalf and made it happen for us. It wasn't until 2 days before our meal that we knew for sure it was going to happen. I was thrilled because I'd never been to el Bulli and at least now I'd get a chance to experience the Adria aesthetic first-hand (and that of their partners, the Iglesias Brothers, for the first time). And as it turns out, the timing of it being our last meal in Spain was fortuitous. While the meal clearly would have been an extraordinary one at any point during our trip, having it at the end, after having eaten so much of the local cuisine in Barcelona and Basque Country, really helped us gain an additional appreciation for it. Tickets' distinctive, refined takes on several archetypal dishes we'd enjoyed earlier in the trip really resonated with us. Even though the deliciousness of the meal would have come through clearly under any circumstances, the additional context we'd accrued earlier in the trip enhanced the experience immeasurably.
Tickets really is a crazy endeavor. It's an entirely circus-like atmosphere, where even the staff wear uniforms that are a cross between Sgt. Pepper and Ringling Brothers. There are flashing message boards, decorative fake foods hanging from the rafters and even an ice cream cart -- complete with ringing bell -- that is rolled around the dining room, as its operator makes cones for diners tableside throughout service. The space is actually defined by 6 specific food preparation areas, each with its own culinary aesthetic. One can sit anywhere in the restaurant and enjoy food -- essentially tapas -- from any of these 'kitchens.' Some of the areas are intended to represent a specific aspect of Spanish culture, others are defined more by the food items they're putting out. The place and all its components came together like a Fellini movie and restaurant rolled into one . . .Tickets - Avinguda del Paral·lel, 164, Barcelona
Before the 19:00 opening, even though some have reservations, they queue up.Tickets - Avinguda del Paral·lel, 164, Barcelona
Is Tickets a show, a restaurant . . . or both?Staff meeting right before the opening
Seems like serious business.Menu
LOL, well not entirely serious!
We were asked if we wanted to order on our own or just have the house take care of it. We opted for a blend, telling Xavi our captain and Claudia our server -- both of whom were incredibly friendly and knowlegeable -- that we'd leave it in their hands but that we might request a few items from the menu along the way. That worked out great. We were served a base meal of what I'm guessing they felt were some of Tickets' strongest offerings. And, when something on the menu -- or served to a table near us -- looked good, we'd ask about it and almost always order it. Not too long into the meal, Xavi and Claudia began to understand that we were adventurous and they started asking us if we'd like this or that, which was also nice. The result was an epic meal during which we tried a large amount of dishes on the menu and a few that do not appear to be.
First off, we decided to start out with a bottle of white rioja. The wine list is only in Spanish but it was fairly easy to navigate. It's a list of fairly young, food-friendly wines that are priced very reasonably. We chose a 2009 Bodegas Luis Canas Amaren Fermentado en Barrica Blanco (Rioja DOCa, Spain), which, at €25, was a friendly price. After our wine was opened, the onslaught began . . .Watermelon infused with sangria
Juicy in the most sensational of ways. It was just slightly boozy and the flavors of the sangria enhanced the melon nicely.Joselito's Gran Reserva Iberian Ham
After having ham all over the place, it was interesting to have the one that this team had chosen for their menu. It was terrific, with a nice funk and subtle sweetness and nuttiness.Tomato Bread
A superior version, of course. Iberian Shoulder
Tasty lomo and again, it was great to taste the take chosen by this team.The Olive-S by Tickets
This is actually "The Charity Tapa" at Tickets and for every jar of these olives sold, half a Euro is donated to the house's chosen charity. Of course, these are the "olives" made famous at el Bulli, and they're not really olives at all. They're actually made from pureed olives, which are encapsulated with sodium alginate and then brined. We tried 2 varieties: the Tickets house olives shown here and the Gordal Adobada shown below. They were both delicious. This variety was slightly milder in flavor but both really had smooth afternotes.The white anchovie (sic) that wanted to be an anchovie (sic)
LOL, I was convinced. It was an anchovy to me, and it was a briney and delicious bite.The Olive-S by Tickets - Gordal Adobada
More strongly-flavored than the version shown above.Xuxi with tomatoe (sic) seeds and Cantabrian anchovie (sic)
I hope to not open up another linguistics debate (:wink:) but I'm pretty sure that xuxi is a thin crust of bread, almost like a melba toast. Here, fresh tomato seeds and a delicious anchovy sit atop one.Slices of tuna belly with its tartare, panceta (sic) and salmon roe
Delicate in texture, bursting with great flavors. This bite was truly inspired.Codium tempura with its vinagrette (sic) jus
This fried seaweed varietal was handled exceptionally well. It was light, crispy and delicious without being greasy in the least. The vinaigrette (not pictured) provided a nice focal point.Miniairbags stuffed with manchego cheese
Another awesome one-biter. Being a huge fan of manchego, I loved eating this meaningful manipulation.Tomato Salad
I don't believe this one was on the menu but think deconstructed gazpacho, and one of the tastiest ones you've ever had.Roast Beef
Going over our bill, by process of elimination I'm pretty sure this is a "roast beef" dish but I'm not 100% sure. I do remember enjoying it, though.Avocado cannelloni with crab and romesco sauce
Just a phenomenal dish and so artistically composed. At its core it's so simple but the quality of ingredients and highly skilled preparation made it a truly memorable dish.
At this point, Claudia asked us if we liked oysters. We told the truth
and trios of 3 separate oyster preparations came out in succession (there are at least 7 offered on the menu). I do not know their provenance but they are credited on the menu as being provided by Mariscos Genaro. They were meaty, briney and so delicious . . .Oysters - with their pearlsOysters - Sherry vinegar, tarragon and olive oil caviarOysters - Catalan fish broth Suquet
Unlike the other 2 preps, this one was served warm. Suquet is a Catalan fish stew that typically includes saffron, onion, garlic, tomato and almonds. Claudia asked us which was our favorite and if I had to choose, I'd probably go with prep #2 but this suquet was also excellent...ok, so was #1. Razor clams in escabeche sauce, saffron pearls and soy sauce shards
This was sublime and after having simply grilled razor clams on a few occasions earlier in the trip, it was great to have this more composed take.Tuna belly tartare with a light spicy sauce and lime
This was a delight with tender subtle tuna that melted in mouth. The sauce was beautiful, accenting the fresh fish without stepping on it. This was served with some crackers (possibly xuxi, not pictured).
Our bottle of white completed, we decided to finish up the meal with a bottle of red, and opted for a 2010 Alvaro Palacios Camins del Priorat (Priorat DOCa, Spain). Again, food-friendly and easily drinkable. This bottle was priced at €24, which was an even friendlier price than the white.Macerated prawns with soy and ginger
After feeling for days that there was nothing better in this world than a simply grilled prawn with its head on, this more prepared take had me feeling that in the right hands, seeing a bit more of the chef's will was a perfectly wonderful thing.Fish
I couldn't find this on the menu but looking at our bill, I'm pretty sure this was a fish of the day, marinated and fried crispily.Fried egg with truffled duck fat and potato cream
Here's one that we saw served at a neighboring table and then requested. It was so delicious it surpassed the sum of its mighty parts.The room
As I mentioned up top, Tickets is quite a show. Here, you can see the room. Notice the faux salamis and tomatoes hanging from the ceiling on the left side of the room.Tickets
I got the sense that the branding notes here were more self-parody than anything else.Ice cream cart
We weren't quite ready for dessert but the ice cream man was making the rounds."Mollete" vapor
This take on the regional Andalusian bread was one of 2 versions we were served. This one, stuffed with meaty ragout, was almost bao-like and really tasty. It was expertly steamed and supremely tender."Mollete" papada with double chin
When I think of molletes, this is more what comes to mind. It's muffin-like and round, not spherical. In any case, this griddled version was almost like a slider with some very tender slices of double chin pork and slightly sweet and tangy sauce that did not disrupt the umami moment this dish embodied.Homemade sausages of Iberian "secreto" with "seques" beans
We love grilling secreto steaks at home and with its fattiness, which is similar to that of skirt steak, it's always seemed like a perfect cut from which to make sausage. So, when we saw this on the menu, we had to order it. Tickets' take on buttifara and white beans was, by a wide margin, the best one we tried on our trip. These sausages were packed with flavor and possessed a perfect definition. And you can see by just looking at the beans, how perfect they were.Dessert kitchen
With the savory side of the meal behind us, we couldn't help but look to this dessert kitchen, which was adjacent to our table.Liquid ravioli of Payoyo cheese
A delectable bridge course, with warm, liquified, grassy-sweet Andalusian goat/sheep cheese inside . . and I'm pretty sure that's a xuxi on top of it. Cheesecake with lemongrass sorbet
A glorious take with a texture that was so satisfying, I kept eating it long after I should have.Chocolate-filled buñuelos
Another great instance of chocolate in Spain that managed to hit my "C-spot" between sweet and bitter. Of course, it didn't hurt that the chocolate was served inside a light, masterfully fried little donut.Warm lava cake of "turron de jijona" with raspberry sorbet
This nougat cake really was a sensation. The flavor here was rich, satisfying and intense.Warm lava cake of "turron de jijona" with raspberry sorbet
Oozing center, get it while it's still running.Tin
The vessel containing our bill and signaling the end of our meal (and the end of our trip).
I felt we really benefitted from the mastery and confidence of the Tickets team, which combined to create a truly magnificent and distinctive dining experience. Who else could pull off such a capricious, almost self-effacing venture as this? And who else would even have the balls to do it? It seems like a huge risk to decorate the eating experience in this way -- with so many overt distractions -- and still expect diners to comprehend and appreciate the seriousness and superior quality of the food being served. In an era where so many chefs and restaurateurs seem to take themselves way too seriously, Tickets is going the other way. Not resting on their laurels but leveraging them in a brilliant homage and empassioned lovesong to the culture of Spanish cuisine, the Adrias and the Iglesias have created the ultimate tapas bar.
Avinguda del Paral·lel, 164
08015 Barcelona, Spain
932 92 42 53